Democracy? Shrug

I’m a Penn State alum (Chemical Engineering, 07) and long time Joe Paterno admirer.  I own a football that bears his autograph.  I have a framed picture of him leading the 2005 team onto the field against Ohio State.  I have a dachshund named JoePa.

I don’t, nor have I ever, thought he was perfect.  He could be mean; he could be arrogant. Coach Paterno liked his bourbon a bit much (or so I hear).  His wife was a girl he met and started dating while he was faculty and she was a student.  He was openly condescending toward the media.  He was, from time to time, insubordinate to his bosses at Penn State.   This list of flaws and/or possible flaws is by no means exhaustive.

But I’ve long admired him for the combination of the high level of ethics and high level of success with which he ran the Penn State football team.  I still do, and still do for those reasons.  With regard to recent events, the evidence is clear that Joe Paterno did exactly what he was supposed to do, both legally and ethically, in regard to the accusations made against his former assistant Jerry Sandusky.

What does this have to do with modern western society’s exultation of Democracy? This.  Most people simply don’t know the truth, and large chunks believe things very contrary to it.

The whys and hows of the beliefs of people in this regard are subject to debate and a number of different factors.  Confirmation bias.  Jealousy.  Lousy media coverage.

What makes this example particularly stark is the abundance of media coverage over relatively lengthy time and how not-complicated the facts are.  We’re not talking about something so nuanced as the ethics of public education, the long term effects of poverty subsidies, or whether a public option currency will /should lead to greater fiscal growth.  Those things are complicated.  The data are easily muddied.  The logic of a debate on any of them would be nuanced.   Such is not the case with Paterno in regards to his actions with respect to the accusations of molestation made against Jerry Sandusky, and yet people get them wrong anyway.

Democracy, left unchecked, will naturally become a kleptocracy.  Individuals will caucus to vote themselves the fruits of others’ labors.  Other individuals will caucus to stop them.  The power of these individuals will consolidate.  What will eventually come about are factions competing and compromising for a treasury filled with the fruits of the labors of the disenfranchised.

What checks a democracy can be a number of things.  A general moral culture.  A king or queen.  A written constitution.

There are problems easily seen with all of these.  A general moral culture, even if 100% of the culture had it, would depend on not just the moral fortitude, but the intellectual fortitude of the people as well.  As is easily seen, most people are blissfully unaware of the facts, even when the facts are quite clear.

A king or queen is still just a man or woman.  Wise and noble as any given one may be, he or she is still mortal and able to be tempted.

The problems with depending on a written constitution to defend against such ills are easily seen by the American experience.  The 9th and 10th Amendments couldn’t be more clear; and the powers of the government are extremely limited.  Yet even with clear language and educated interpretation, Social Security, ObamaCare, wars on abstract nouns, and a fiat currency still exist.  Some parts get ignored; others get warped.

This is why I say I believe in liberty and don’t give one hoot whether it comes by Democracy or dictatorship.  At best, Democracy is the least terrible of a bunch of terrible options for an earthly government run by men and women.


Total Fulfillment of the Law and Why Monergism Does Not

It is common for modern Christians to think that the laws of the Old Testament do not apply anymore.   They’ll say something about being “under grace” (true and relevant, but misapplied) and ignore, either deliberately or not, the statutes and theological implications of the law.  Wherever these people get this notion, it stands in direct contrast to the words of Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20, KJV):

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

and of the law given by God (2 Kings 17:37, KJV):

37 And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods.

Yes, the law applies every bit as much today as it did when it was given to Moses.  The difference is not in the laws, but in how they are to be carried out.  While the whole of the law can and ever could be summed as it was by Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40),

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

and by the prophet Micah (Micah 6:7-8),

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

this establishes and justifies the ordinances; it does not abolish or trivialize them.

Yet it is right that Christians do not carry out the laws of the Old Testament as they were properly done before Jesus (Galatians 5, Hebrews 9).  Not because those laws are no longer relevant, but because they were fulfilled by Christ.  He is our eternal atonement sacrifice, Passover sacrifice, etc.

If indeed Christ is all of those things, and He is, He must be our eternal free will and thanksgiving offerings as well.  These offerings had specific conditions attached to them, among them that they must be of the person’s free will (Leviticus 1:3, 19:5, 22:19, and 22:29, respectively):

If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.

And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord, ye shall offer it at your own will.

19 Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats

29 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will.

Therefore, if we are to believe that Jesus fulfilled the whole of the law, as He said He would, and not just parts of it, we must reject monergism.  For if the fulfillment of the law through Jesus is monergistic, Jesus would be insufficient to fulfill those portions of the law God commanded be of the free will of the person.

An Unconstitutional Tax if it Is a Tax: My Opinion of the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare Decision

My opinion on the ObamaCare ruling? If I were on the Supreme Court, I would have filed a separate dissenting opinion.

Actually, I’m not sure about that. I have not read any dissenting opinions from the Court. I wanted to judge whatever the majority opinion was on its own merits, not clouded by whatever merits exist in any existing dissenting opinions, and write my own. Any similarity this bears to the opinion(s) of Justices Kennedy, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia is purely coincidental. I’ll read their opinions immediately after posting this.

Dissent aside, I mostly agree with Justice Roberts’ majority opinion, including his thinly veiled shot at the law:

“Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

He might as well have said, “This law stinks on ice. Even though it’s really stupid, the authority is not given to the Supreme Court to protect citizens from really stupid laws, just unconstitutional ones.” In fact, I really only have two problems with the opinion itself, one of which is of no consequence to the result.

We disagree about the extent of the Commerce Clause. He seems to be of the opinion that it gives Congress the authority to tinker with any and all existing commerce; I think it gives Congress and Congress alone the power to erect tariffs, subsidies, and standards and practices in commerce between states, foreign countries, and Indian tribes. I have absolutely no doubt that his thinking is more in line with the post-1937 Court; I have absolutely no doubt that my thinking is more in line with the Framers and the pre-1937 Court. However, we agree that neither the Commerce Clause nor anything besides Congress’ taxing power justifies the law.

Since I’ve already noted that my opinion would be dissenting, you’ve probably already guessed that Justice Roberts’ opinion and I disagree that Congress’ power to tax justifies the law. It should be noted: I don’t necessarily disagree that the Individual Mandate is a tax; I do disagree that if it is a tax, it’s a Constitutional one for the following reasons:

1. The Constitution makes clear that all federal laws that either raise existing taxes or impose new taxes, as Justice Roberts’ majority opinion said the Individual Mandate does, must originate in the House of Representatives. Even though the reason for this was made archaic by the 17th Amendment, it’s still very much a part of the Constitution. The Senate can no more originate bills for raising revenue than the House can ratify treaties or confirm Cabinet members or federal judges. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act originated in the Senate. Therefore, if it’s a new tax, it’s unconstitutional.

2. The power of Congress to tax is limited by Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3. All federal taxes fall into one of two categories: taxes that need to be apportioned (direct taxes), and taxes that do not need to be apportioned (indirect taxes).

What’s the difference? Direct taxes are taxes you cannot avoid. Merely by existing, you must pay them. Indirect taxes can be avoided: like federal taxes on tobacco, alcohol, or gasoline purchases. You pay them only if you choose to purchase those things, and you are free to not purchase those things. Direct taxes must be apportioned among the states according to their latest enumeration, indirect taxes may be, but need not be.

Here’s the question: if we accept that ObamaCare’s “penalty” is a tax, is it a tax that needs to be apportioned or not? Here’s the answer: it’s impossible to tell, because it’s unconstitutional either way.

If it is a tax that needs to be apportioned, then logically, in order to be Constitutional, it must be both a direct tax and actually be apportioned. If the Individual Mandate needs to be apportioned and meets the apportionment mandate of of A1S2C3, then medical insurance itself must be considered a tax.

Why is that? Because otherwise the possibility exists that the tax would have no respect for enumeration. If, say, 50% of New Hampshire chose to pay the “penalty” instead of buying medical insurance and only 5% of Mississippi did the same, the tax would not be apportioned. The only way the tax remains apportioned is if paying the penalty for not buying medical insurance is considered equivalent to buying medical insurance.

However, Congress alone has the power to lay and collect taxes (A1S8C1). Since the payment of medical insurance is collected by a private company not designated by Congress and does not directly raise revenue, medical insurance itself cannot be considered a portion of a direct tax. Since medical insurance itself cannot be considered a direct tax, the Individual Mandate does not meet the apportionment mandate of A1S2C3, and is therefore unconstitutional if it needs to be apportioned.

A counter to this argument is that Congress doesn’t collect taxes, the Treasury Department (a part of the Executive branch) does. Therefore, to say that taxes need be collected by Congress in order for the payment to be a tax is wrong, and it is possible that the purchase of medical insurance can be considered a tax.

While I would grant such an argument in and of itself, such reasoning defies the Court’s justification for the Individual Mandate being a tax at all. We must remember that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not refer to either the purchase of insurance or the penalty for not purchasing insurance as a tax. If it is a tax, it is because its conditions necessarily imply that it is a tax. In other words, you can call it “piano,” but if if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and both its parents were ducks, it’s a duck no matter what you call it.

Simply put, the purchase of medical insurance isn’t called a tax, and doesn’t look, walk, or sound like a tax. It didn’t originate as a tax, either. The Treasury Department has the authority to collect taxes on behalf of Congress because Congress explicitly delegated such authority to it; such is not the case with the purchase of medical insurance under ObamaCare. Taxes directly raise revenue for the government, the purchase of medical insurance does not. The purchase of medical insurance is a part of a voluntary, mutual agreement between two parties, taxes need not be voluntary or mutually agreed upon. Medical insurance existed before ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate, and wasn’t considered a tax beforehand. Simply put: the purchase of medical insurance cannot be considered a tax.

Since the purchase of medical insurance cannot be considered a tax, the Individual Mandate fails to meet the apportionment requirement of A1S2C3, and is therefore unconstitutional if it is a tax that needs to be apportioned.

If it is a tax that does not need to be apportioned, it must be an indirect tax. Therefore, it must be a tax on some type of activity. Since not buying medical insurance is inactivity, not activity (as the Court’s denial of the Commerce Clause justification confirmed), it is a direct tax and therefore must be apportioned. Since this contradicts the very premise of it being a tax that does not need to be apportioned, it is therefore unconstitutional if it is a tax that does not need to be apportioned.

3. As I’ve noted previously, the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade states that the word “liberty” in the 14th Amendment prohibits state laws from interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. The identical language in the 5th Amendment would prohibit the federal government from the same. The notion that Congress is allowed to pass such a law, even if it’s a tax, without a Constitutional Amendment or the Court overturning Roe v. Wade is inconsistent with that ruling.

Any of the above is sufficient for eliminating Congress’ taxing power as justification for the Individual Mandate in ObamaCare. All of the above just shows how lousy of a decision it was.

Fantasy, Reality, Legislation, and the Drug War

This article by’s Mike Riggs was recently posted about drug war.  Several characters within the Obama White House have been parroting the typical half-and-less-than-half truths.  Hope and change indeed.

I don’t advocate drug use.  In fact, I advocate the exact opposite: not drug use. Let me make something clear: unless you have a legitimate medical reason to use certain chemicals, you shouldn’t hurt your body with those chemicals.  It’s immoral, sinful, counterproductive, and will get expensive.  I’m not out to make your choices for you, but if you want my advice, there it is.

Some people imagine that the opposite is anti-drug legislation.  They are wrong.

In fantasy land, legislation fixes problems.  “Make it a law” that everyone buys health insurance, earns a certain minimum hourly rate of pay, and doesn’t use or sell certain intoxicating chemicals, then magically everyone has health insurance, is both productive on a certain level and compensated for it, and doesn’t use drugs! Done!

In reality, legislation that does anything other than directly protect people and their property from violence distorts free markets.  “Make it a law” that everyone buys health insurance, and health insurance prices skyrocket.  Minimum wage legislation makes everyone unwilling or unable to find a job that pays a certain hourly rate unemployable.  The drug war merely drives the drug trade into the black market.

What does that do?  It makes drugs artificially scarce, driving up prices and driving down the safety and quality.  It makes the profit margins massive and the industry criminal, drawing the most ruthless criminals into the trade.  It also makes the government unable to place a reasonable consumption tax on such an item.

It fills prisons.  The United States has the most restrictive drug laws in the world, and also has the most drug related crime and highest prison population by percentage.  Prisoners cost money.  The government must take this money from somewhere else.

Prisoners tend to remain in prison.  The single greatest indicator of whether or not an individual will go to prison in the future is whether or not he has been to prison in the past.  It’s a big resume stain and time wasted not gaining valuable skills.  Double whammy; huge comparative disadvantage.  So what do they turn to? Crime.  Costs money to enforce those crimes and put the ex-cons through trials and back into prison.

So the drug war:

–Might keep some people from using drugs
–Fills prisons, which is expensive
–Drives down government revenue by keeping otherwise productive people in prison
–Drives down government revenue by keeping a taxable item off the market
–Raises crime, which is dangerous and expensive
–Creates a market in which violence thrives
–Creates a market in which the product is more unsafe

And that list is far from exhaustive.

All to keep some people who want to use drugs from using drugs.  Which, by the way, how’s that going?

End the War on Drugs.  End all wars on ill-defined, abstract nouns.

The Problem of Consequentialist Public Policy

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted.  I’ve been busy.

In that time, I posted the following on facebook:

Requesting that members of an organization ethically opposed to contraception, or anyone else, not be forced (yes, with very real threats of lethal force) to give up their property to pay for other people’s contraception is not the same thing as denying access to contraception. Denial is an action. Therefore, inaction is not denial (modus tollens). Not paying for other people’s stuff is inaction, not action.

It’s no “War on Women.” It’s stopping the war on property

Which drew a response from my long time friend, the always thoughtful Sean Sheehan.    The rest of the exchange was as follows (click the picture to enlarge):

My main issue with Sean’s line of thought is the consequentialism of it: if X benefits from some action, then X should pay for it.

If X benefits from it

This makes an implicit assumption: we know X will have a net benefit from something.  It makes the assumption that you can predict the future.

Not that such an assumption is always bad.  People speculate all the time.  It keeps prices more stable.  It keeps money more sound.  The assumption that there will be greater benefit in the future from some foregone benefit now is the nature of investment, and investment makes us more prosperous.

If you have a half of tank of gas now, but you think the price will be higher in a few days, you’re more likely to fill up now.  This increases demand now, raising the current price.  If you think the price will be lower in a few days, you’re less likely to fill up now.  This decreases demand now, lowering the current price.   This being done on a massive scale “smooths” the transition of prices from one state to the next, making current prices reflect future prices, making them more stable. Decisions based on expectations about the future are not inherently bad things.

Making them for other people, on the other hand, is.

I think this is particularly relevant to the case of subsidized contraception in an effort to drive down unwanted pregnancies.  While admittedly a very simplified equation, it is fairly representative of the truth:

Unwanted pregnancies = amount of unprotected sex * natural conception rate + amount of sex with contraception * rate of conception while using contraception

Subsidizing contraception makes the market price cheaper.  You’ll get no argument from me.  This decreases the opportunity cost for persons to use contraception.  Likely then, many more persons will use contraception.

But does that decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies?  Maybe, but suffice it to say I know we don’t know that for sure.  Being on contraception decreases the perceived risk associated with having sex.  This greatly increases the amount of sex with contraception.

That increase makes sex in general more widespread, and therefore more acceptable in society.  There is increased societal pressure for girls to engage in sexual intercourse.  If girl A and girl B are both after guy C, girl B, even if she’s not on contraception, feels more pressure to have sex with guy C if she thinks girl A will do so because girl A is more likely to be on contraception.  This increases the perceived opportunity cost of not having unprotected sex with guy C, raising the amount of unprotected sex as well.

So even if contraception subsidies do make the market price of contraception cheaper, I see no reason to believe they actually, necessarily reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.  The exact opposite may be the effect.

Even if contraception subsidies do lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies, is that necessarily a good thing?  Sure, more women would be less educated; that’s not good.  But there would be greater population: greater population leads to greater division of labor, leading to greater specialization, leading to greater comparative advantage, leading to greater prosperity.  There would likely be more marriages in the absence of contraception subsidies, and married couples tend to be more productive, and make more money, than two single people.

That’s the danger of making public policy based on consequentialist ethics: we don’t know the future.  We don’t know the full impact of every little decision, and sometimes, the actual consequences of a policy can be the exact opposite of what was intended.  Government intrusion into medical care has made it more expensive.  Welfare has led to more people unable to provide for themselves.  Housing subsidies led to a massive housing bubble and financial collapse, leading to mass numbers of people getting kicked out of homes.  Greater restrictions on the availability of firearms tend to lead to more firearm-related crimes.

Speculation is fine.  Forcing everybody to speculate simultaneously, and speculate the same way, is dangerous.  Just because I may think you’d benefit from filling your tank now doesn’t mean that you should, and by no means gives me the right to force you to do so.  Even if I’m right about the price of gasoline, and we can’t be certain that I am, how do I know that you weren’t going to use that money for something even better, something that would have made you more money than the money you would have lost by waiting to fill up your tank?

Then X should pay for it

I tried to demonstrate by an industrial analogy that such is a complicated matter.  If Company A invests in a technology that drives down their production costs of product B, it will likely drive down the free market price of whatever good or service they are producing.  This will drive down the free market price of competing goods, such as product C from Company D.  If I purchase product C, I am benefiting from that initial company’s investment: I am able to save money on my purchase.  Do I have a moral responsibility to pay for the initial company’s investment?

A legitimate question is, “Do I pay, in some way, for Company A’s initial investment?”  The answer is sort of.  I’m not completely isolated from the risk associated with the investment.  If Company A’s investment is a failure, company A is less wealthy.  They may have to downsize, making some people poorer, making their ability to make direct or indirect mutually beneficial exchanges with me less likely.  They may exit the particular product market, driving up demand for competing product C, making product C more expensive.  To be sure, I am not isolated from the results of Company A’s investment.

And that’s just it: completely “free riders” are somewhat of a myth in the free market.  We are not completely isolated from the decisions of others.  I bear a burden if Company A’s investment is a failure, and I get a benefit if it is successful.  Even if I have nothing whatsoever do to with Company A; even if I don’t realize it.

But what we do have in a free market are incentives.  Incentives for risk taking.  Incentives for prudence.  Incentives that keep the brunt of the benefits and failures on the one who controls the resources.  Deviation from the market distorts those natural incentives.

There Can be no Ethics Without God or Why You Might Already be a Theist

A frequent statement from atheists and secular agnostics is that they don’t need God to be good.  That they can be “good for goodness’ sake.”  I partially agree: you don’t need to believe that there is a God in order to exhibit behavior, even exclusively exhibit behavior, that is consistent with that which is truly good.  You don’t need to believe that God commands such a thing (and/or will reward you for it, and/or will not punish you if you don’t) in order to aid the poor, orphaned, and widowed, or do anything else that is good.   Indeed, I’ve witnessed many atheists do exactly that.  That’s not the point I’m trying to make.

What I will prove, however, is that such actions are not, in and of themselves, reasonable.  Or at the very least, justified.  Indeed, this is the stated position of such atheist philosophers as Nietzsche and Rorty.  I won’t be telling the consistent, well thought out atheist anything they don’t already know.

For the sake of argument, I’ll leave open the academic possibility that something can be good apart from being justified or deemed as good, but if it is, something cannot be good if it is inconsistent with what has been deemed as good.  I won’t assume that there is no “goodness” property apart from being deemed as such, and I won’t assume that all things that are good can be proven as being good.  Rather, just that “goodness” can be a real, logically consistent property of things.  Things cannot be both good AND not good.

1. Definition 1. g: good
2. Definition 2: J: justified or deemed by proper authority as good
3. Definition 3: C: consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good
4. Axiom 1: If something is justified or deemed by proper authority as good, then it is good. J –> g
5. Axiom 2: If something is both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good, then it is good: C /\ g –> g
6. MT 4: If something is not good, then it is not justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~J
7. MT 5, DeMorgan’s law: If something is not good, then it is not both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good.  ~g –> ~g \/ ~C
8. Conjunction Introduction, 6, 7: If something is not good, then it is both not justified or deemed by proper authority as good AND not good OR not logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~J /\ (~g \/ ~C)
9. DeMorgan’s law, 8: If something is not good then it is not justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~[J \/ (g /\ C)]
10. Law of the excluded middle: All things are either justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR  good and consistent with that which has been deemed as good OR not.  [J \/ (C \/ g] \/ ~ [J \/ (c \/ g)]
11.  Material Implication, 8:   Therefore, All things are either good or not justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~ [J \/ (g /\ C)] \/ g

12. This, in and of itself, does not completely prove that if something is good, then it is either justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or is good and is consistent with that which is good.  So we’ll prove by showing that the opposite is necessarily not true: if something, anything, is not good AND  justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or both good and consistent with that which is good.  Proposition 1:  ~g /\ [J \/ (g /\ C)] 
13. MP 9,12, reductio ad impossibilem: Something is not good, therefore it is not justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or is both good and consistent with that which is justified or deemed as good.  Something cannot be both [J \/ (g /\ C)] and ~[J \/ (g /\ C)].  Therefore, by 11, all things that are good are justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or both good and consistent with that wich has been deemed as good by a proper authority. g –> J \/ (g /\ C)

You either have to reject the axioms or logic to deny the conclusion. 

The question comes in with what exactly a proper authority is.  If it is a person or persons, be it yourself, someone else, or some construct of humanity (a corporation, a government), where did they get such authority?  It is impossible that everyone or every human construct has this authority, as not everything that one person justifies or deems as good is done so by everyone else, or at a minimum, they are not consistent with one another.  If it is only a particular person, then again, where did they get it?  Why are they different from everyone else?  If it is their access to violence and punishment, that still doesn’t explain (1) why they’re right or (2) why compliance for fear of such a thing is good.  Even if it were, why is your survival desirable?

If one tries to ascribe such an attribute to nature, a dead god, or to the “betterment of mankind” or some other abstraction, the same question arises: why?  Nature and mankind are capable of things that seem terrible.  What makes its / their survival, laws, or best interest desirable, let alone good?  What makes “betterment” “better?”

If one tries to ascribe such an attribute to an imperfect god, we can make no assertion that what it deems good is justifiable as good, or that such a being is correct.  It’s imperfect.

It is only by a living, perfect God with the inherent ability to justify and deem such things that true goodness exists.  If you believe in true goodness, you’re being inconsistent to say you don’t believe in a living, perfect God.

Adam was Physically Immortal? No.

There is an incredibly common belief among Christians (not to mention practitioners of Judaism, Islam, and others who take the Book of Genesis seriously): that Adam was created physically immortal and only ceased being so once he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.  It is the belief of Roman Catholics, most Protestants, and others.  This belief is used to justify notions that our birth and human nature are somehow different than it would otherwise be because of Adam’s sin.

As with anything, we should search the Bible concerning the matter:  Adam is mentioned by name 20 times in the NIV and NASB, 29 times in the KJV.  Pronouns happen, as does the difficult distinction between the words for “Adam” and “man / men.” Never, not once, ever does the Bible explicitly or implicitly say Adam’s flesh was created immortal.

Of those, some were ostensibly for genealogy / historical purposes alone, and have no discernible bearing on this doctrine (Jude 1:14, Luke 3:38, 1 Chronicles 1:1, for example) beyond that which is necessarily implied from others: that Adam existed on this plane of existence, and was a singular, literal, person, inasmuch as the text treats Adam the exact same as all other literal, singular people.

God does proclaim that Adam will return to the dust after his sin, but is that a change?

Genesis 3:17-19:

 17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;  18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;  19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Yes, God does proclaim that Adam will die a physical death in this passage, but nowhere is it stated that this is a change from Adam’s previous state.  In fact, God proclaims that Adam shall eat the herb of the field and work the ground, and this was not a change from Adam’s previous state.  God commanded Adam to subdue the garden and have dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:28.  There is no reason, therefore, to assume that a future physical death, in and of itself, is a change from Adam’s previous condition.

What changes is Adam’s state of mind about the conditions in which he is in.  “in sorrow” Adam would eat of it and work it.  He would not eat bread without “the sweat of thy face.”  Though I’d be the first to admit that it’s not explicitly stated, the same can be said of death.  Death would now bring grief and sorrow instead of just being a normal, natural, beautiful part of nature in which a sinless, living soul (1 Corinthians 15:44) passed from this plane of existence to the next.

The Bible says your flesh is like Adam’s flesh

Several come in Genesis chapter 5, which are both genealogical and relevant to this discussion. Genesis 5:1-6:

1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;  2Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.  3And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:  4And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:  5And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.  6And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:

So it goes on, and is repeated in 1 Chronicles 1 to a much larger degree.  So we see that Adam is quite clearly treated as a literal, singular person on this plane of existence when he fathered Seth, who fathered Enos.  1 Chronicles 1 goes all the way from Adam to Jacob and Esau, treating them all as is they are real individuals.

Adam begat his sons in his own image, just as Adam was created in God’s image.  Adam was created by God, but not a begotten son.  Jesus is God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16), because Jesus is actually God.  Adam begat sons who were human, who begat sons who were human, just as Adam was human.

1 Corinthians 15:47-48:

 47The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.  48As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

You have a body that is earthly, as Adam’s.  Verse 48 makes this clear: your body is earthly, just as Adam’s was.  Your flesh is not immortal; neither was Adam’s.

1 Corinthians 15:39

39All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

There is only one kind of flesh of men.  If we are to believe that Adam was a real man, he had the same kind of flesh you do: a mortal kind.

When did God say Adam would die, and why does that matter?

Genesis 2:16-17:

16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

So God says Adam would die in the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  As noted above, this was not a physical death, because Adam lived much longer than that.  It is not possible that God meant this in a physical sense unless God changed his mind, because “in that day” is not all that negotiable.

Do other passages about Adam contradict this?

There are 4 passages in the Bible that deal specifically with the typology of Adam.  I quote the KJV from Hosea chapter 6, which does not mention Adam by name, but that’s due to ambiguity in the source texts.  Most translations do say “like Adam” in verse 7.  Hosea 6:5-7, Romans 5:12-18, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 1 Corinthians 15:44-45

5Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.  6For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  7But they like men [Adam] have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:  13(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.  15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.  16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.  17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)  18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  21For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.  45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

Not one of those passages say Adam’s flesh was created immortal.  They do say that through Adam, sin entered the world, and spiritual death through sin, because every person has chosen to sin.  If sin exists in creation but was not a part of it, it had to enter the world through a creative source: that source was Adam.  You choose spiritual death by choosing sin, being joined to the way of Adam.  They also, in tandem, say that you can choose resurrection from this death by choosing the way of Jesus.

What does extra-Biblical reality have to say about this?

God created the sun before Adam.  The sun is a star.  All starts eventually go supernova.  When the sun does go through its God-ordained end stages, it will consume the earth.  Therefore, God did not did not create Adam in such a way that his physical body could withstand creation forever.  Therefore, Adam was not created physically immortal.  His physical body was never intended to withstand God’s creation forever.

Some will try to say that sin corrupts DNA, and that’s why Adam died and passed on death, even though he was created immortal, and this is how death passes on throughout the generations.  There is (1) little to no reason to believe this is true, and (2) it completely fails to reconcile Adam’s immortality to the previous paragraph.

If we believe the Bible is true, 100% consistent with itself, and 100% consistent with reality, there is no room for an Adam that was created physically immortal.  An immortal Adam is inconsistent with the Bible and inconsistent with reality.  Adam died, and we will all taste that physical death.  We can also be united with Christ’s death, that we will be raised with Him also.

I Like My Government Lazy

I hear so often, mainly from the left, but not always, that they want the government, especially Congress and the President, to “do things.”  That they need to “work together” and “get things done.”  These people are seriously misguided.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to make some changes.  Eliminate campaign finance laws.  Repeal Obamacare, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Welfare. End the Fed, the EPA, and the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Education, HUD, Labor, Interior, HHS.  Gut the military-industrial complex.  Amend the Constitution to eliminate the post office and forbid the government from engaging in the money supply business.  Repeal anti-trust legislation.  Repeal the 16th Amendment.  I could go on; I won’t.

That isn’t so much the government “doing things” as undoing really dumb things it has done in the past. Dumb things.  Stump stupid.  Do you hear me?  If you like those things, I think you’re either a stupid person or morally reprehensible.  Fix yourself.

Here’s a short, non exhaustive, list of what happens when the government does things:

–The currency is inflated
–Wealth is taken and redistributed to special interests
–The returns on productivity are further diminished
–The ability of charities and other NPOs to operate is severely damaged
–Markets are distorted, creating uncertainty and instability, diminishing return on investment
–Rights are trampled
–Poverty, single parenting, abortion, bad business practices, sexual promiscuity and other unfortunate things / moral failings are subsidized, decreasing the opportunity cost for them, making them more widespread.

In short, civility is damaged, and the ability of a peaceful society to exist is threatened.  Not all of these happen with every executive order, new regulation, or piece of legislation, but some happen so close to all of the time that it may as well be.

I’ll take a lazy, do-nothing, gridlocked government over one that “works together to get things done” any day.  Unless “getting things done” means undoing past instances of “getting things done.”  It’s no small wonder that the most successful, effective pieces of legislation in the last 20 years are Welfare Reform and the Bush and Clinton capital gains tax cuts.

Stop telling the government to do things.  You just may get what you wish for.

The Excluded Middle: Why Either ObamaCare or Roe v. Wade Must Go

There is a rule in logic called the law of the excluded middle: in reality, something either is or is not.

The ruling on Roe v. Wade was a ruling of the 9th Amendment (at the District level, and a very poor one: the Supreme Court, although it upheld the ruling, discarded, mocked, and borderline shamed the District Court’s rationale) and 14th Amendment (at the Supreme Court level).

The relevant Constitutional text comes from Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

This merely extended the protection of life, liberty, and property citizens have under the 5th Amendment to state laws:

nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

The 5th Amendment was irrelevant to Roe v. Wade, because the law challenged was a state law, not a federal one, but it does demonstrate that because of the identical text, if the principle applies at the state level, it also applies at the federal level.  This is not a power granted to the federal government that is prohibited to the states.

The end result of Roe and subsequent decisions was that “privacy” was a liberty in a doctor-patient relationship, especially in matters related to procreation (largely due to Skinner v. Oklahoma, which prohibited states from forced sterilization of “habitual criminals”), if and only if those interests outweigh the interests of the States‘ interests: “safeguarding health, maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life.”  Regardless of the merits of such an argument, and even such pro-choice liberals as Alan Dershowitz and Cass Sunstein, as well as Blackmun’s own clerk, Edward Lazarus, admit it stinks on ice, that’s the result.

Which begs the question: if the federal government is not allowed to impose mandates on a doctor-patient relationship (and method of payment is an aspect of such a relationship), and states are only allowed to do so if they can demonstrate that they doing so in “safeguarding health, maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life” efforts, how is ObamaCare Constitutional when it does exactly that?

Either the text “liberty” in the 14th and 5th Amendments prohibits such interference or it doesn’t.  It’s the law of the excluded middle.

Why Christians are not Pelagians

There is a word that gets thrown around by Calvinists to describe Christians who do believe as they do: Pelagian.  They use it so loosely and to describe so many different things (Classical Arminianism, Neoarminianism, The Church of Christ / Christian Church, Pentecostals, many Baptists, and several others) that they clearly either have a few distinct (and inconsistent) definitions or believe this one: that the free will of human beings is sufficient to choose faith in Jesus Christ and be saved without external aid (or forcing) by God.  Put another way: that original sin, irrespective of its existence or mechanism, does not make a person so depraved as to be unable to choose saving faith.

Indeed, this is what Pelagius taught and seemingly believed, and he even went further: to believe passages like Ezekiel 18 and deny original sin altogether.  This is also what Clement of Alexandria, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Origen, Irenaeus, and the other pre-Augustine Church leaders believed and taught as well.  Yet Christians aren’t described by any of these names, just the name of Pelagius, who came after all of these people.

And indeed, this is the belief of the Church of Christ / Christian Church and some of the others mentioned above.

The irony is that the truth of what Pelagius taught and believed, while admittedly being quite distant from either, has more in common with Calvinism than Christianity.  Pelagius believed that a person’s free will was sufficient, even though it would never happen, to live a life free of sin and therefore deserve to go to Heaven.  Calvinists believe that if your sins have been atoned for, God is unjust to keep you out of Heaven, and therefore you will go to Heaven.

In this way, both adhere to what I call “clean slate” soteriology: that God is some sort of cosmic accountant who, so long as you have a balance sheet that isn’t in the red, will let you in to Heaven.  You won’t find that notion anywhere in the Bible, and I would argue that 1 Timothy 3:16 proves that notion untrue.  However, it was the belief of Pelagius and is the belief of Calvinists.  In spite of their adherence to clean slate soteriology, we don’t call Calvinists “Pelagians.”

Pelagius also believed that Jesus was an anti-type of Adam.  Indeed, Romans chapter 5 makes this abundantly clear.  The problem is that both Pelagianism and Calvinism don’t seem to understand the type: the contrast between the person by whom sin and the person by whom salvation entered the world.  Calvinism makes the type independent of choices: Adam’s sin actually made you a sinner independent of your choices (always); Jesus’ salvation actually makes you saved independent of your choices (maybe).  Pelagianism makes the type completely dependent upon your choices through “moral example:” choose the way of Adam and get death, choose to be sinless and get eternal life.

Neither is totally right or wrong.  The message of Romans chapter 5 is that through Adam, sin entered the world, and death through sin, because sin became available for all and all sinned by choice.  Through Jesus, salvation entered the world, and eternal life through salvation, because eternal life became available for all, and many chose union with Christ.  Again, even though they take an extreme-yet-anti-Biblical view of Romans 5, we don’t call Calvinists “Pelagians.”

Maybe we should.  Well not really, but it would be more accurate for a Christian to call a Calvinist a Pelagian than vice versa.  Sorta like a libertarian calling a Communist a Nazi; it’s not true, but has far more in common with the truth than the more common opposite.

So why are Christians called this name by Calvinists? Because Pelagius was marginalized as a heretic (correctly, for the reasons noted above and others), and his teachings run contrary to Augustinianism, which, although clearly contrary to Ezekiel 18, became Catholic dogma.  It was a holdover by Martin Luther (who was an Augustinian monk) at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, and has been clung to as ‘orthodoxy’ ever since.

When they say this, they are calling you a heretic.  Don’t stand for it.  Correct their error in truth and love, and if they don’t accept it, well, just remember that they believe God needs people to go to hell to manifest His glory.  We’re not dealing with the best or brightest.